Why Kosovo’s cities are going green

Fjollë Caka


Tales from the Region



Kosovo citizens are severely affected by air pollution. At the same time, many cities and human settlements are experiencing the impacts of climate change, including heat waves, floods, and forest fires. Institutions have taken action, but much more needs to be done.

Kosovo generates 88% of its energy through the Kosova A and Kosova B power plants, which also rank among the top of Europe’s polluters. Most pollution is derived from energy and heat generation for households, and other sectors such as industry, transport, agriculture, and waste. Their proximity to Prishtina contributes to its high ranking among the most polluted cities in the world. In 2020, both PM10 and PM2.5 average annual concentration levels in Prishtina exceeded the WHO recommendations, by two and almost five times respectively. In 2023, those levels decreased but still exceeded the recommended WHO levels.

Air pollution: A problem that doesn’t go away

Besides the capital, many other major cities, such as Gjilan, Mitrovica, Peja, and Prizren, also have high particulate matter (PM) concentrations. While it is an all-year problem, air pollution is more intense during the fall and winter due to the increased demand for heating. Considering the lack of district heating systems in most of the cities in Kosovo (except in Prishtina, Gjakova, Mitrovica North, and Zvecan), small combustion is the main contributor to particulate matter with a size of 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5), of 10 micrometers (PM10) and other dust emissions. An additional pollutant harmful to human health is nitrogen dioxide (NO2), mainly emitted through the transportation sector.

A recent (2022) study shows that air pollution is already negatively impacting human health in Kosovo too, contributing to the rising cases of respiratory issues (including asthma and bronchitis), especially in children. Even though premature deaths attributed to PM2.5 in Kosovo dropped from the year 2020 (4,000 premature deaths) to 2022 (3,059), severe air pollution and other environmental issues continue to contribute to a lowered life expectancy (an average of almost 10 years less compared to other EU countries).

At the same time, average yearly temperatures have also increased especially during the past 20-30 years, which impacts human health, agricultural yields, physical infrastructure, and ecosystems. Thus, the quality of human health and the environment have been negatively impacted. Many cities and human settlements are experiencing the impacts of climate change, including heat waves, floods, and forest fires.

As a signatory of the Sofia Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, Kosovo has committed to phase out coal and increase renewable energy, as well as innovation. It is also preparing its first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) voluntarily and started implementing measures to increase the share of renewable energy. At the same time, it is also preparing a Strategy for Climate Adaptation; thus, committing to work towards its resilience.

Lack of access to international funding mechanisms is a key hindrance towards more sustainable and climate-sensitive development, yet there are also positive and promising developments as well.

Source: reuters.com

Several cities have started to plan and undertake more sustainable measures. For example, Prishtina has developed a Green City Action Plan (GCAP) with concrete measures for the respective green measures to be undertaken, including building energy efficiency, solid waste, and wastewater management, and integration of climate change adaptation. Prishtina, Mitrovica South, and Mitrovica North have also developed Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) and started implementing their measures, and several other municipalities are undertaking such policy and planning measures.

The SUMP of Mitrovica South, beyond promoting sustainable mobility options (including inter-modal station, public transport improvements, and cycling and walking infrastructure) for the functional urban area, was also acknowledged by the European Commission for its vision of promoting safety in the city center and around schools – hence, nominated as a finalist for the 10th Award for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP Award) focusing on “Safe and Healthy with Sustainable Mobility” at the European level, competing against Madrid (Spain) and Tampere (Finland, winner). Mitrovica South has also started taking initiatives in increasing its green open spaces, both through public capital investments in regenerating the current parks as well as through community-driven initiatives, especially in creating several urban community gardens. The benefits of green spaces are multifold, spanning better health and environmental performance to climate adaptation and mitigation.

On the other hand, Prizren has piloted a local GHG inventory, upon which findings it has developed a cross-sectoral GHG mitigation plan targeting multiple sectors, such as energy, transportation, waste management, and public services. Several municipalities have also started developing their Municipal Climate and Energy Plans, whereas others are also implementing more sustainable projects, including the installment of solar panels in institutional buildings and public schools, increasing energy efficiency, and planting trees.

A need for urgent action

Despite the progress shown in the political agenda and legal framework improvements, currently enforced development plans lack effective measures for climate change adaptation and mitigation. There is a need for more widespread mainstreaming and continuous action. Kosovo’s cities need to further their agenda, specifically in the implementation of measures contributing to an increased share of renewable energy generation, buildings energy efficiency improvements, sustainable transportation and waste management, sustainable forests management, and increase of green spaces in urban areas.

They need to prioritize sustainable development goals and aim for greener and more resilient concepts of development, which would support overall human health and well-being. In addition, there is a need for additional public campaigns to increase awareness among citizens about the adverse impacts of air pollution and other heat and extreme weather events on humans as well as the available resources to address them.

Tackling air pollution and the respective impacts of climate change requires multi-stakeholder partnerships, which require the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders and beneficiaries in both planning and implementation processes. As such, all parties should collaborate and take responsibility for a joint better, more sustainable, and healthier future.


The blog was created as part of the “Tales from the Region” initiative led by Res Publica and Institute of Communication Studies, in cooperation with partners from Montenegro (PCNEN), Kosovo (Sbunker), Serbia (Autonomija), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Analiziraj.ba), and Albania (Exit), within the project "Use of facts-based journalism to raise awareness of and counteract disinformation in the North Macedonia media space (Use Facts)" with the support of the British Embassy in Skopje.This edition of Tales from the Region is also done in partnership between ICS and the UPSURGE project, funded within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 under grant agreement No. 101003818.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of Communication Studies or the donor.

Fjollë Caka

Fjollë Caka is an architect, sociologist, and urban planner from Prishtina (Kosovo), working towards sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and low-carbon development of cities and communities. She is a Ph.D. candidate and Lecturer at the South East European University (North Macedonia), as well as a GYCN Climate Ambassador for Kosovo since 2021.